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Franklin, Nittany Lions Ready to Work

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VIDEO: Player Interviews - Jan. 15 | VIDEO: One-on-One with James Franklin

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It looked and sounded like the first day of school as Nittany Lion players began filing into the locker room at Lasch Building around 6:20 p.m. on Sunday night in advance of the team's first squad meeting with new head coach James Franklin at 7 p.m.

9612733.jpegGuys were chatting, giving one another a hard time and genuinely happy to see each other.  The team walked across the hall from the locker room to the squad room shortly before 6:50 p.m., sat down in the amphitheater-style seats by position and awaited the arrival of its new head coach.

When Franklin walked in and stood at the top of the room, the players stopped talking.  Franklin spoke up and joked that while the group waited for a couple more people they could still talk.  The players chuckled and went back to conversing and shaking hands with guys they hadn't seen in three weeks during winter break.

"Everybody was really excited," cornerback Jordan Lucas said.  "When we met up in the locker room before the meeting, it was like a family reunion."

Following a brief introduction from Director of Athletics Dave Joyner, Coach Franklin walked down the stairs to the front of the room before his team at 6:56 p.m.  The players clapped and provided a warm reception before giving the new had coach their undivided attention.

Franklin's opening message was simple.  He told the group that he wants the team to be a close-knit family that is going to do everything in its power to outwork everyone.

"We're going to work extremely hard," Franklin said.  "You know, there is not going to be a program or a coach in the country that's going to outwork us."

 When the Nittany Lion players heard that statement, they were ready to get into the weight room and start working.

"He came in and had a lot of energy when we first spoke with him," Lucas said.  "He let us know his vision.  We're all excited and ready to start winter workouts."

"I love it.  He brings a lot of intensity to the program, picking up right where we left off," quarterback Christian Hackenberg said.  "I think he is the perfect guy for the job.  We're really excited to start getting him in here more once recruiting is over and start focusing on some ball."

Franklin had each player on the team stand and introduce himself so that he could put a face to a name and begin the process of creating a tight bond between everyone in the program.

"I just think he is a big relationship guy," tight end Adam Breneman said.  "He's very personable.  He's very charismatic.  I think he's going to be great in recruiting, and I think he's going to build great relationships with all of us."

Regardless of a player's position on the depth chart, he is going to have a role in Coach Franklin's program.  He made that clear in the team meeting.  He needs everyone to contribute to make the Nittany Lions a strong, cohesive unit.

"I really liked how he assigned everyone a role, whether you are a fourth-team guy or a starter," linebacker Mike Hull said.  "We need everyone to pull together in order to win."

A passionate coach in every sense of the word, Franklin set the tone for his tenure at Penn State during his introductory press conference last Saturday.  Determined to be the make Penn State the most successful program it can be, Franklin won't accept anything less than hard work and a positive attitude.

"I'm just going to coach and love these kids in this program and help them develop into the young men that they want to be," Franklin said.  "That's our focus.  Focus on the things we can control, work hard every day to develop the best student athletes we can, develop the best football program we possibly can, and be a positive part of this community."

"We knew he was a coach of determination," defensive end C.J. Olaniyan said.  "We know he is going to try and get the best out of us."

The next step for the Nittany Lion players is the start of the winter conditioning program.  The new strength and conditioning staff is expected to be in place soon, and the Lions are eager to commence preparations for 2014.

"I'm chomping at the bit right now," said Hackenberg.  "We have a lot of guys coming back.  We have a lot of young talent that played last year.  We're going to get after it in the weight room."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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